Raymond “Ray” Ross
AFRH-G Veteran Highlight - Raymond “Ray” Ross
By Lori Kerns, AFRH-G Librarian
Raymond “Ray” Ross was born in Philadelphia, PA., in 1940. He lived there until the age of seven when his family moved to New Kensington, PA. His father abandoned his family soon after, leaving Ray’s mother to raise Ray and his two sisters. Being raised by females would prove to be influential later in his life by giving him the ability to relate to a female’s emotions with more ease.
As a child, Ray was a poor student. The school officers eventually told his mother that they would no longer pick him up to go to school. They were frustrated because no sooner would they drop him off at the front door, he would find his way to the back door and leave. At age 17, he was still in the 9th grade. His sister, who was three years younger, was sitting behind him in class on the day he decided to enlist in the military. Ignoring the fear of flying he still possesses to this day, he joined the Air Force. He had always wanted to work on airplanes because they had fascinated him. Despite a lack of education, he ended up serving 20 years, primarily as an instrument auto pilot and avionics repairman. For about four years, he served with Air Force recruiting working in public relations and advertised for half the state of Pennsylvania. The last three years of his career, he was stationed in Las Vegas where he had risen to the rank of first sergeant. He retired in the area where he worked on one of his greatest accomplishments, beginning the first Toastmasters Club in Las Vegas for which he served as president for two years.
During his Air Force career, Ray was fortunate enough to find his soulmate, Audrey. The couple had the perfect marriage along with six children, four girls and two boys. Their eldest son, Ray, served in the Army but sadly succumbed to wounds received when he served as part of the U.N. Mission in Kosovo. Ben, his other son, just recently retired from a 20-year Air Force career. His daughters, Melissa, Rhonda, Angela, and Audrey have also made their father proud with their own successful careers.
After retiring in Las Vegas, Ray had taken his family and settled in Hampton, Virginia. Before his retirement, Ray had owned several businesses which included an engraving service and car detailing. He also dabbled in the solar and energy business and was eventually hired through the University of Virginia to teach home energy workshops to the public. This also brought him to open an energy audit business. Once his wife told him that she felt their family needed a more steady income, he found a civil service position working for the Army as an avionics specialist. He worked at Fort Eustis, Virginia with Cobra helicopters, then on a top secret computer at Fort Monroe, Virginia. He switched jobs to work with the Navy Depot in Norfolk, Virginia as a shop supervisor.
The Navy learned that he had electronic experience along with a top secret clearance so they offered him the opportunity to become qualified to work with their nuclear program. Upon his qualification, he began working on electronic equipment in a nuclear reactor room. An opportunity arose to move to NAVAIR (Naval Air Systems Command) headquarters in Maryland to become the calibration supervisor for the entire command. He spent his last years as a civilian working with NAVAIR building the largest intranet site the Navy had at that time. In 1999, Ray combined his military and civilian services into one retirement. That young man who hated school eventually earned two college degrees and had two successful careers, all while supporting and raising his large family. Ray came to the conclusion that earlier in life other people can control who you are. However, as you grow older you make the decisions of who and what you are.
After retirement, Ray decided to help one of his daughters who owned an internet business in Destin, Florida. He videoed the first virtual reality tour that was ever posted on the internet. Unfortunately her business slowed so she had to lay him off. In 2006, Audrey, Ray’s soulmate and wife, passed away. Two years later, he made the decision to move to AFRH-W in DC. When the home in Gulfport reopened, he relocated and has been a resident since. He loves AFRH-G’s residents and staff. Always a free spirit, he struggles with some of the restrictions on his life but knowing that “love is a sacrifice” he gladly accepts them for his children. He enjoys his time at the home, by volunteering and sharing his humorous personality with residents and staff. Ray has decided that his next journey will have him throw his hat in the ring to become RAC Chairman for AFRH-G. In his words, his “future is yet to be written” but this will probably be his last hurrah if he wins. After that, God willing, he’ll jump into his fire engine red Mustang convertible, put the top down, and drive off into the sunset for his next adventure.